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  • June

Minding the Gap

She was honoured for her literary contribution and received the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal - Harvard’s highest honour in African and African American studies.

My first interaction with Chimamanda was The Purple Hibiscus. It was our text book in Form 1 and to be fair I'm (was) and still am not sure if it was a suitable read for 13-year-olds. I haven’t reread it yet, but plan to - at this my big age. I later read and watched Half of a Yellow Sun (which I loved - my favourite quote was from the aunt who said 'Nkem, you must never behave as if your life belongs to a man' still love that quote to date!) and read (and listened to) Americanah ( on the audiobook version I love how Ranyinudo says 'Amerikanah') - three times now. The second time I read through Americanah was when I had just joined Grad School and I felt so seen! I could resonate to Ifem on so many layers and having been here for the past year or so, it still hits home.

Last week, a colleague and friend presented their First S.J.D. Colloquium (PhD equivalent in law) on the topic “The Law & Political Economy of Technology, Informal Markets and Development”. She's proposing a new scholastic angle of looking at the divide between digital colonialism vs digital development. Really interesting paper and research that I cannot wait to delve into and read her findings, especially with her elected case studies.

But as she was presenting her paper something I have and still grapple with came up; a strong sense of Americanization and centrality of the US in all we do.

Let’s digress for a second and come back to this. In one amazing session a few weeks ago, I was in a room where we were asked to describe ourselves using an emoji and mine was this think one 🤔 I have found myself hmm’ing alot as I try to contextualize and reframe what’s being said.

Got this from Dall.E which I just discovered and really like

Bilingual Fluency

Chimamanda's bio and introduction indicated that she spends/splits her time between the US and Nigeria. I guess this may be common but being away from home for long periods of time makes you bilingual. Not in the literal sense, but have an appreciation and understanding of cultural nuances. I read Lean In several years ago for the first time and didn’t really take note of certain organizational and managerial things until I joined Google years later.

Some terms are normal, usual in life and manifest in the workplace that seems universal, but are not. An example that’s more recently resonated is badging. Harvard uses a badging system (Harvard University Identification (HUID), so did my former school American (AUID). But I’d never encountered a centralized badging system until I joined Google. Now, the world is becoming more global and offices increasingly tech-centric but I think of the college student whose experience at uni level is already accustomed to a badging system that easily transcends and continues as they work and get to the workplace. It's a non-issue for them.

I’ve recently thought of the difference in cultural expression and understanding as well and I have to keep catching and uncatching myself. The example I think of a lot is that of folded hands. In Kenyan culture, folding hands while listening to someone is a sign of keenness and paying of attention. (So is mmh’ing which for me says active listening and again 🤔 :)) But in the US and some Western cultures, that may mean being closed off, that someone may be hiding something. Another is not looking directly into someone's eyes as you speak and looking down as they speak. In Africa = respect, in the US = deceit.

Another is speaking up, when to speak, what to say and whether to state what may seem obvious because of your cultural context and life experience that may not be the same as others. I am incredibly grateful for the fact that I work for an organization that strongly encourages speaking up and listening to differing points of view.

No one teaches you how to be disagreeable or how to query/question and for most, you stay silent.

I still grapple with the fly-on-the-wall analogy and speak, share your peculiar experience, your voice and POV are needed - dichotomy.

The Global Majority

In another room I was in, I just learnt of the shift in phrasing from 'Global South' to 'Global Majority'. There is apparently scholarship on this, which I have not yet delved into but intend to, because I keep thinking of this dynamic and dichotomy.

I continue to read, learn and actively search for information to learn and appreciate the differences and nuances that I may not have been exposed to.

These are just some of the many thoughts I continue to grapple with and wrap my mind around.

Unfinished thoughts - but that is the beauty of the process. Becoming.

A big Trevor fan, but just discovered the weekly round up of the Daily Show. I really enjoy his African and outsider POV to how the US runs and operates dipped in humor but empirical evidence too.

in most areas of life, success isn’t about being a genius. It’s about tapping into the right scene, where skilled people meet each other, trade ideas, and get collectively inspired.

So here’s my advice for this week: take your scene seriously. Go out of your way to meet people who are doing cool stuff, and even if it feels cringe to begin with. Be a door-knocker, not a window-opener.


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